Sports Betting – SJR2

Constitutional Sports Betting on the Ballot in 2020?

Yes, if a Senate Joint Resolution (SJR2) passes in both the South Dakota Senate and House in this Legislative Session.

You may remember that in 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, that one particular federal gambling statute, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, violated the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution  because it illegally empowered the federal government to order certain states to disallow sports gambling.  It did not speak to the legality of sports betting, per se. In fact as noted in its ruling that if Congress was to pass a statute to directly ban sports gambling; such a bill would likely survive legal scrutiny. No such federal law exists.

In South Dakota, sports betting is currently prohibited by the Constitution so a Constitutional Amendment would be necessary to legalize it. The easiest way to get it on the ballot in 2020 is via joint resolution passed by both the Senate and House. With their votes in 2020 South Dakotans will decide if they wish to authorize an expansion of gambling in South Dakota.

SJR2 seeks to authorize sports betting only in Deadwood, but if authorized it would also be allowed in reservation casinos as well.

To be sure, illegal sports betting currently exists, but its access is somewhat limited. Because of its legality problem, it produces zero revenue for the state. The fact that a new revenue stream may be created by legalization will peak the interest of some. Initially those folks will minimize the likelihood of an increase in gambling addiction with its attendant costs to society because there is no reliable evidence to quantify it.  If SJR2 is approved by the voters, additional legislation will be required to regulate it and earmark expected revenue increases including how much revenue may be allocated for addiction counseling, etc.

South Dakota already has a gambling addiction in that in 2018 the South Dakota Lottery provided $124.7 million to the general fund.

But there is more than just the monetary factor to consider here. Sports betting has the very real potential to change the integrity of performance of athletes in the competitive sports world. Will the performance of players be affected by the point spread? (In 1919, the World Series was tainted by eight players that were corrupted by sports betting.) What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

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